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The federal government has been one of the biggest supporters of LEED certification in the last few years, with the General Services Administration (GSA) requiring basic LEED certification for all federal buildings starting in 2003 and then upping that requirement to LEED Gold in 2010.
The military has been on the cutting edge of green building from the beginning. The Navy adopted sustainable design principles before LEED even existed, as we reported way back in 1998. The Army embraced LEED in 2006 and recently began the much more radical work of moving all its installations to net-zero energy, water, and waste. As Katherine Hammack, assistant secretary of the Army for installations, energy, and the environment, put it to EBN earlier this year, "Energy security is mission critical."
We feared that might all change when we saw that the most recent military appropriations legislation requires explicit justification for any spending on LEED above the Silver level. What's worse, this decision pretends to be about money but appears to have been made over certified wood credits. (Watch this space for in-depth coverage of the "wood wars" in coming weeks.)
Hammack is having none of it. In a call with reporters yesterday, she reiterated the Army's commitment to net-zero and LEED and gave an update about some of the progress that's already been made. "We're finding it does not cost more to design and construct to LEED" standards, Hammack said.
Will the Army then be submitting cost-benefit analyses for each project, as the legislation seems to require? Hammack said no.
"The challenge right now is one of education," she explained. "If a building got a Gold-level certification and we were striving for Silver, that does not mean there was an incremental cost. We're working to help prepare a report for Congress so they understand the benefit of high-performance buildings."
Hammack clearly views these benefits as, at least in part, financial.
The legislation in question does have a loophole for LEED Gold and Platinum projects as long as they don't cost more. As we reported at the time, "Exceptions may also be made without a special waiver if achieving Gold or Platinum 'imposes no additional cost'."
That loophole is big enough to blithely drive a tank through without bothering to show ID at the checkpoint. You apparently don't have to prove that it didn't cost more--or the Army is interpreting it that way, at any rate, while working closely with Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta on "educating" Congress.
Another reporter asked if you could bypass the requirements by building to LEED standards but not bothering with certification. Hammack wasn't warm to that idea.
"We like the LEED program because it gives another set of eyes on the construction details and helps guide the direction of architects and engineers," Hammack replied. "The cost of LEED certification is very minimal in comparison to the benefits of LEED certification and the recognition that the building has achieved certain goals."
"With a limited amount of water, a limited amount of resources, and an increasing world population," Hammack said, "we need to improve our stewardship over the resources we have."
Most of the call with Hammack was devoted to the progress on net-zero pilot projects. She and the rest of the Army clearly are not wasting time on questions of whether to LEED or not to LEED.
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